Tropical holiday destinations

Top 10: Exotic beach getaways

If you're hankering for sunny days, warm nights, cool waters and soft sand, an exotic beach getaway could be exactly what you need. Imagine palm trees, piña coladas and a fresh sea breeze – now that’s a holiday to look forward to! Whether you want a quiet, romantic getaway or a holiday filled with water sports and beach parties underneath the moonlight, we're sure we have the place for you.

1. Mexico

Lively Cancun knows how to have fun. A stay at one of the beach resorts here puts you right on the doorstep of nightclubs, restaurants, shopping malls and well-known attractions like the Wet 'n' Wild water park. It's also close enough to enjoy day trips exploring some of the Yucatán peninsula's Mayan heritage: the stepped pyramid at Chichén Itzá is a popular spot. Alternatively, the Riviera Maya offers a quieter holiday. You'll find a great choice of accommodation, including all-inclusive resorts, luxury boutique hotels and beachfront cabanas. There's excellent reef diving, Mayan ruins aplenty and, for the ultimate in relaxation, yoga retreats and spas in the resort town of Tulum.

Best beach: Punta Coco beach on Isla Holbox, an island to the north of the Yucatán Peninsula.

2. Caribbean

With more than 700 islands, there's plenty of choice in the Caribbean. Jamaica, the home of reggae, is deservedly popular. Not only can you enjoy authentic jerk chicken, ackee and saltfish and the famous Red Stripe beer, but Jamaica’s beaches are some of the best in the Caribbean. Don't miss watching the sunset at Floyd’s Pelican Bar and diving at Montego Bay Marine Park. Then there's the Dominican Republic. Punta Cana is one of the liveliest, fun-filled resorts on the island, offering everything from classic sun, sea and sand to zipline tours and water sports. Meanwhile, nature lovers might want to head to Samana Bay, where, at certain times of the year, humpback whales come to give birth. Or what about Cuba? Follow in the footsteps of Hemingway and explore Old Havana, before relaxing on Varadero or one of the island's many other palm-fringed beaches.

Best beach: The calm, turquoise waters of Bávaro beach in the Dominican Republic.

3. Egypt

For guaranteed sun and some of the world's best diving, look no further than Egypt. Hurghada, on the Red Sea, is an excellent choice for families and also for anyone wanting to combine their beach holiday with a trip to the temples and tombs at Luxor. For snorkelling, the nearby Giftun Islands are hard to beat. Then, of course, there's Sharm el-Sheikh, sitting between the Sinai desert and the Red Sea. If you're a diver, don't miss out on a trip out to the SS Thistlegorm, near Ras Muhammad. Shark's Bay Beach is another good spot for both diving and snorkelling. And, if you want time out of the water, why not go on a camel safari in the Sinai desert!

Best beach: Naama Bay in Sharm el-Sheikh.

4. Seychelles

At more than 500 miles from their nearest neighbour (Madagascar), the 115 islands in the Seychelles archipelago really do offer the ultimate get-away-from-it-all beach holiday. Anse Source d'Argent in La Digue is often cited as one of the archipelago's most beautiful beaches, and its calm, shallow seas are perfect for small children. If, however, you're looking for a secluded honeymoon destination, think about Anse Louis Beach in Mahé. Additionally, Mahé and, in particular, Port Launay Marine National Park is the place to go if you hope to see whale sharks on a diving or snorkelling expedition. Ashore, consider hiking through the Vallée de Mai on Praslin island in search of the rare Coco de Mer, the world's largest seed.

Best beach: Petite Anse on Mahé.

5. Maldives

Another truly remote idyll, the Maldives has stunning beaches and its own unique culture. What's more, the bewitching underwater life that makes it such a mecca for snorkelers and divers is complimented by the verdant onshore scenery. Highlights of your holiday here could include watching whale sharks at Maya Thila or Ari and Baa atolls, diving off the beaches of Kuda Huraa in search of sea turtles and manta rays, or surfing at Laamu Atoll. When the sun goes down, enjoy a Maldivian folk dance on the beach or set sail in a traditional Dhoni boat. Finally, sate yourself on freshly-caught seafood in the form of local delicacies like garudiya, a clear fish soup, and masroshi, which is chapati stuffed with tuna.

Best beach: Reethi beach in the Bar Atoll.

6. Bali

You can't come to Bali without visiting one of its temples. The sea temple at Batu Bolong is a good choice if you don't want to venture too far from the sea. If it's the left-hand reef break waves that attract you, you'll have no shortage of awesome surf spots. Balangan Beach, Batu Bolong and Kuta are just three to try. Inland, the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary is well worth a visit although remember not to take any food with you! If you want to snorkel, the reef off the black sand beach of Amed Beach is definitely one to try. For lounging on the sand, Seminyak, sometimes called Bali's most stylish beach, is a great choice.

Best beach: The sunset views at Jimbaran Bay.

7. Thailand

Koh Samui has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Maenam Beach is one that many Koh Samui visitors might be less familiar with but, with over four miles of sand, there's plenty of space for everyone. If you're over on Koh Phi Phi, perhaps you have a hankering to visit Maya Bay, the setting for the filming of the film ‘The Beach’. Access is closely controlled nowadays but even if you can't go onto the beach, a longtail boat tour of the bay is definitely worth doing. Finally, if it's partying you're after, take your pick from the likes of Patong beach in Phuket and Haad Rin in Koh Phangan.

Best beach: Railay Beach in Krabi.

8. Australia

You'll know the names of some of Australia's most famous beaches and resorts even if you haven't yet been. From Sydney's Bondi Beach to Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast, this vast country has no shortage of great beaches. Perhaps you want to visit Palm Beach in Sydney, famously immortalised as the fictional Summer Bay in the TV show ‘Home and Away’, surf or snorkel at Byron Bay, or you want the wilderness experience of Kangaroo Island, southwest of Adelaide. Even up north, where saltwater crocodiles and jellyfish make swimming impossible in many places, you can still cool off at one of the patrolled beaches, such as Mindil, Nightcliff and Casuarina.

Best beach: Whitehaven beach in Queensland's Whitsunday islands.

9. Mauritius

With its blue lagoons, white sands and rugged basalt cliffs, Mauritius is a tropical dream brought to life. The sheltered lagoons in the north of the island are perfect for a relaxing beach holiday: try Mont Choisy or Péreybère for beautiful beaches with plenty of accommodation options. The privately-owned Ile aux Cerfs, accessible via a short boat ride, has excellent golf facilities as well as a range of water sports. However, if you're a keen surfer or fancy some deep-sea fishing, head for the south-west of Mauritius. This is also where you'll find Le Morne beach at the base of a mountain with the same name. The beach is a great picnic spot while climbing the mountain – a UNESCO World Heritage Site –  affords amazing views across the island and out to sea.

Best beach: Trou aux Biches on the northern coast.

10. Zanzibar

A visit to the "Spice Islands" of the Zanzibar archipelago is a popular add-on to a safari in nearby Tanzania or Kenya. However, it's also an excellent standalone beach holiday destination. Nungwi beach, in the northwest of Zanzibar island, with sand the colour of caster sugar, turquoise sea and stunning sunsets is a popular spot. If you make it to Unguja island, try to get a reservation at The Rock on Michamvi peninsula. Quite literally situated on a rock in the ocean, it's widely regarded as one of Africa's best restaurants. And a visit to Stone Town is a must, and it combines well with a trip to Nakupenda Beach Nature Reserve. If you're very lucky, a pod of dolphins might accompany you on a swim off this stunning sandbank beach.

Best beach: Paje beach on Zanzibar island.


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